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Choosing an Assisted Living Facility
Assisted living facilities provide a type of long-term care that emphasizes independence, flexibility, and individualized support. While there is no official, standardized definition of assisted living, most residences that fall under this title offer private apartments for residents, with staff on call to help with some daily-living activities such as bathing, dressing, mobility, and running errands. Assisted living facilities are generally designed for those who don’t need the intensive medical care provided at nursing homes.
There are thousands of assisted living facilities throughout the US. Choosing one can be a complex process—but it’s important to pick the right one. Here are a few factors that should be included in choosing an assisted living facility for yourself and a loved one.
Know your price range.
For many people looking into senior housing options for the first time, the most stressful aspect is how to pay for the care. Medicare does not pay for assisted living care, and Medicaid pays a very small amount. Residents and their families are expected to pay most of the costs.
However, there are ways to make it work. Many people pay for ongoing assisted living with the funds from the sale of the resident’s former house. The money can be invested in a CD or annuity that provides monthly interest. It’s important to bear in mind that most assisted living facilities include meals, so you won’t have to include groceries as part of monthly expenses.
If possible, choose a facility whose costs won’t exceed the resident’s current monthly income, from retirement accounts and other sources. Bear in mind that inflation will raise the cost of living at retirement facilities more than the average rate of inflation.
Choose a location.
If you are searching for assisted living residences on behalf of a loved one, it’s important to involve them in choosing the location. This is a very individual choice and depends on the resident’s preferences as well as the affordability of the residences available in that area. There are several criteria that may be important.
- One is familiarity. Some residents prefer assisted living facilities in the area where they lived. You or your loved one may have a strong attachment to a particular region or city.
- Another is proximity to family. It’s crucially important to some families that the resident live in a place where regular visits are easy. In this case, the resident may have to choose a facility in a new area if his or her family doesn’t already live nearby.
- A third involves climate. Harsh winter weather or extreme heat can be hard on the elderly, and for some, a mild climate promotes better health. States such as Florida and California, with mild and sunny climates, can be more comfortable for residents than states that are either very cold or very hot and dry.
Assisted living facilities are designed to help residents maintain control over their lives for as long as possible, and part of that involves allowing residents to choose their own location.
Visit and talk to the staff.
There’s no such thing as a perfect assisted living residence. You can get a good idea of the benefits and drawbacks of a community by talking to both the staffmembers and the residents who live there.
Speak to the staff at each facility you’re considering. Clearly explain your loved one’s needs and ask questions to determine how the staff can meet those needs—while helping your loved one maintain independence.
On your tour, ask to visit residents’ rooms or apartments as well as public areas. Have a meal in the dining hall if you can. And if it’s possible, walk around the grounds without a guide—this will give you an opportunity to get an impression on your own, without a sales pitch. If you can, talk to the residents to find out what they like about the facility—and what they don’t.
Choosing an assisted living facility can be a stressful experience. But if you give yourself some time to research many different facilities, you’re more likely to find one that’s a good match. Assisted living facilities emphasize providing residents with help in daily activities that may be difficult for them—while allowing as much independence as possible in other areas of daily life. With the help of your loved one, you should be able to choose a facility that meets his or her needs.
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